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Building Closeness in a Time of Social Distancing by Ben Ross, Psy.D. Psychological Assistant

Photo Credit: Pexels


Message from the author: I hope this blog post finds you well. In March, the team here at Straight Talk Clinic had to make the decision of postponing our new group therapy offerings. The group that I’ll be facilitating once we’re able to safely reconvene is going to be focusing on relationships and interpersonal connection, and it’s called “Connect More.” In addition to the anxiety many people are experiencing around the threat of COVID-19, the life-saving stay-at-home orders are now forcing everyone to find new ways of navigating their relational worlds. A new set of challenges can emerge for those who share a living space with others. This current crisis is justifiably leaving many people feeling on edge because of health concerns, financial worries, and discomfort with disruptions to daily life. Because of these heightened anxieties, it becomes very important to touch base with the people you share space with, keeping in mind that we’re all in this together. In response to missing day-to-day interaction with the outside world, you might find yourself feeling bottled up with energy you’re wanting to share with others, or you might be craving space and time for yourself now that everyone’s home for all hours of the day. You could also be fluctuating somewhere between those two states of mind depending on your personality and how your mind and body are adjusting to this new reality. I recommend that you take the time to empathically touch base with your housemates as you collectively negotiate how you’d like to share your time and space together. You might even find that these check-ins bring you closer together as you navigate this. If you sense tension and you’re realizing now that these talks haven’t happened yet at your house, try initiating this with the friends, family, significant other(s), and/or roommates you live with... you are the one reading this post after all. Whether you live alone or with others, feelings of isolation and longing for connection can be challenging to work through in times like these. This is especially true when we consider how having a strong social support network can be such an important source of solace when stress levels are heightened. You might’ve guessed by now that I would bring up the internet. It is the only venue where social connections with the outside world can be maintained without any concern for transmitting the virus. In my clinical work, I’ve witnessed how much variance there is in terms of how people engage with the internet. Technology has the potential to draw people together and create distance. Different social media and video conferencing platforms are so commonplace that the potential for a two-dimensional human connection could seem limitless. To maintain balance, it is important to make sure that you’re using the internet in a way that enhances your connections and doesn’t come at the expense of your three-dimensional relationships. In other words, you want to make sure that you’re getting more out of the internet than it’s getting out of you. There are certain modes of online engagement that are more healthfully connecting than others, but this balance is going to look different for different people. You can spend time with friends on your favorite video conferencing app, attend a live streaming performance, listen in on a lecture or interactive online class, attend an online workout session, and share music, recipes, memes, and book and film streaming recommendations. These are just a few ways to use the internet to stay engaged and maintain some degree of normalcy during this abnormal time. Because it’s looking like the stay-at-home order is going to be applied for some time, now might be the right time to reach out to loved ones near and far to check-in on how they’re doing and to see what mode of communication is going to work best in lieu of in-person contact. It’s so important that we be a support to one another as our global community is confronted with this existential threat. Remember that being able to effectively support others demands that we also take good care of ourselves.

Feeling overwhelmed?  Call (714) 828-2000 or visit www.straighttalkcounseling.org to learn more about how our affordable mental health services can help alleviate your anxiety today!


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